An attorney is necessarily a lawyer but a lawyer need not always be an attorney.
There is slight difference between the two, though these two terms, Attorney and Lawyer, are quiet often used interchangeably. However, the slight difference that does exist between the two is of utmost importance to the State Bar Council in matters of malpractice investigations and prosecution.
A lawyer is typically a person who has attended law school and has passed the qualifying exam to attend the degree. A bachelor degree holder has to take the LSAT exams, and basis the marks scored in the examination a student is then admitted to the law school. The examination typically tests the student’s analytical, quantitative and logical decision making skills. Upon completing the course a lawyer gets awarded with a professional degree that enables him to practice law. The scope of work of a lawyer ranges from criminal law to divorce law to patent law, navigating the legal system on behalf of their clients. A lawyer, most essentially, interprets the law through action and words that can serve protection to an individual, a business or any other legal entity. The field of operation for a lawyer is vast as they may be required to deal with a wide range of topics ranging for a law related to taxation to a family dispute.
Thus it is said that a lawyer’s education never ends, he must constantly keep himself abreast of all the current day affairs, economic and social structures, human motivation and behavior etc. A lawyer chooses his field of work and then proceeds to take the bar examination as per his chosen field of work and the state in which one wants to practice.
Once a lawyer passes the bar examination, he qualifies to become an Attorney and practice law under a particular jurisdiction.
An attorney can provide legal representation to his client, a fact that sets an Attorney apart from a Lawyer quite distinctly. The role here goes beyond just factual representation of the law to the client, it assumes the nature of strategizing and providing the legal solution to dealing with the client’s problems. Quiet often an attorney also represents his client in a court.
Attorneys associated with large corporate houses often specialize in one particular area of law eg. Oil & gas-environment laws or tax laws. These attorneys mostly play the advisory role, providing legal counsel to their clients in matters related to their area of specialization. Rarely, they represent their clients in court.
Attorneys dealing with litigation, on the other hand prepare the case on behalf of their clients in a manner that facilitates an out of court settlement, or the litigating parties to reach a mutually amicable solution prior to the date set by the court.
The stream of specialization in the bachelor’s examination often determines the field of law in which a student is likely to practice. For example an attorney with a background in statistics or mathematics is likely to specialize in Tax law. Typically such a lawyer would assist a client which could be an individual or business in computation and payment of all kinds of taxes.
A technical professional or a science graduate may choose to work in a niche area of specialization offered by the American Bar Association – The Patent Law. The work of a lawyer here is protect his client’s idea and ensure that duplication or theft of the idea does not occur. Services of such lawyers are often sought by the large research firms that seek to ensure that the ideas generated by them are original and the protection of those original ideas by the means of patenting.
Thus, in order to increase the scope and span of operation in the legal arena, a lawyer has to essentially take and pass a bar examination to enter into the professional world and work as an attorney.